Turtles-next, your Goldfish!!!


[Photos at the link-looks to me as if they were free roaming the property anyway-go figure]

Robert Zinn’s 115 endangered box turtles were like family.

The retired LSU chemistry professor housed them on his property — some for more than 25 years — and gave them names like “Boxer,” “Cupcake,” “Grandma” and “Big Max.”

But on April 2, state Wildlife and Fisheries agents swept into Zinn’s Baton Rouge backyard and seized 103 of the turtles, claiming he did not have the proper permits to house them.

The state has given most of the turtles to new homes in Baton Rouge, Houston and Florida.

Zinn, meanwhile, is waiting for a trial date on a misdemeanor citation of violating recreational box turtle regulations. He faces a total of a $50 fine or up to 15 days in jail, or both, if convicted.

That legal case has moved at a turtle’s pace, but his civil case against the state seeking his turtles was quickly dismissed.

Zinn, 68, and his wife share their property with the remaining 12 box turtles and another 40 large water turtles that live in their backyard. He has vowed to fight the criminal charge and to regain his box turtles.

Zinn said he started collecting the animals back in the mid-1980s, when he saw a box turtle crossing a road. He pulled over, got out of his car, scooped up the turtle and brought it home.

He soon began collecting other turtles, setting up a turtle hospital in a utility room next to the carport and a turtle nursery for the hatchlings inside the house.

There they stayed until they were 2 years old, then it was out to the backyard, where he had a two-foot high brick wall as a barrier between the box turtles and the water turtles, which have their own swimming pool.

Zinn fed the box and water turtles a mixture of dry dog food and kitten chow, in addition to the bugs they foraged in his yard.

His box turtle population increased over the years as Zinn would dig up the eggs and place them in an incubator in his house.

Zinn studied and charted the turtles’ reproductive and growth habits. He eventually posted his results on his blog, but not in peer-reviewed academic journals, the highest level of published academic research.

For 13 years, Zinn said, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issued him permits to house the turtles. In 2012, however, the agency refused to issue him a special-purpose possession permit, citing overcrowding, lack of natural food sources and lack of natural vegetation and in-fighting within the colony.

He did receive a wildlife rehabilitators permit.

A special-purpose possession permit allows the holder to house animals native to Louisiana. A wildlife rehabilitators permit allows the holder to house sick and injured wildlife.

Agency officials did allow Zinn to keep 12 of the box turtles — including “Grandma” — and gave him time to apply for Louisiana fishing licenses for himself, his wife and sister-in-law. By law, a person can have up to four box turtles if that person has a valid Louisiana fishing license.

After the raid, the seized turtles were taken to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, said Ginger Guttner, spokeswoman for the hospital. Only a few remain at the hospital, receiving treatment for illnesses.

Zinn is adamant that the agents violated his rights.

“They walked all over me and I don’t want them to do that to anyone else,” he said. “They violated my constitutional rights to have a lawyer present during questioning despite the fact I asked several times to wait and they entered my property without a search warrant even though I asked if they had one and they said, ‘We don’t need one; we have probable cause.’ ” [blogers note-probable cause being?!?]

Zinn had requested a temporary injunction against the agency to have the turtles returned. But 19th Judicial District Court Judge William Morvant, at a May 13 hearing, dismissed Zinn’s civil suit against Wildlife and Fisheries without prejudice, meaning Zinn can refile at a later date.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, representing the agency, argued in documents filed in district court that the turtles cannot be returned until the criminal trial is over because the agency planned to use the turtles as evidence.

But the agency has since changed its mind.

“The turtles will not be available for physical evidence during legal proceedings,” Bo Boehringer, press secretary for Wildlife and Fisheries, wrote in an email to The Advocate. “The department is confident that sufficient evidence has been collected for the case presentation.”

Boehringer — who declined to comment specifically on the details of the investigation — said that because Zinn did not have the proper permits when the turtles were seized, Wildlife and Fisheries will not return them even if there is no conviction.

Zinn said he had applied for the permits for 2013 before the raid and learned on Wednesday that the agency denied both permits.

Zinn said that if his criminal case is not heard this year, he plans to apply for permits for 2014.

April’s raid was the culmination of a 16-month dispute between Zinn and agency officials over Zinn’s ownership of the turtles.

John Leslie, wildlife permit coordinator for the agency, emailed Zinn on Jan. 20, 2012, applauding his work with the turtles and asking about his conditions for releasing them back to the wild.

Zinn, in an email to Leslie, said that because all of the turtles were either ones he rescued or raised since birth, the term “wild turtles” did not apply to them.

Under the state statute prohibiting the exportation of box turtles, all box turtles in Louisiana are considered wild turtles and property of the state.

Another permit Zinn also had received over the years was a scientific collection permit meant for people who collect animals for scientific study. But that was not the case in 2012.

The state agents, in the 2012 denial letter for the special-purpose possession permit, said they do not consider what Zinn was doing as legitimate research.

When his first special purpose-possession permit was approved on April 20, 2000, it included two caveats: that he not own more than 166 box turtles and he not keep any hatchlings that survived.

Zinn said he has followed those instructions.

“I don’t believe I’m a criminal,” Zinn said. “I believe the state has overreached their authority many times during this and I think they need to be disciplined and educated in such a way that they will never do something like this to anyone.”


Disclaimer connected to this blog…Things said are of my opinion and the opinion of others…PHOOEY  -B


~ by topcatsroar on June 5, 2013.

One Response to “Turtles-next, your Goldfish!!!”

  1. The probable cause was that they knew he had turtles. Turtles can bite, and can possible take the tip off a finger. Very bad, so it’s exigent circumstances. So they took enough to make themselves a nice supply of frozen turtle soup for this coming winter.

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